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Murray Celestine v. Michael J. Foley

December 14, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge


Plaintiff, Murray Celestine, alleges that Defendants, Michael J. Foley, Jr., John Dick, Michael Bielski and Joseph Pierson violated his federal and state civil rights. Defendants Foley and Dick filed a Partial-Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim and Defendants Bielski and Pierson filed a Partial-Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. For the reasons expressed below, Defendants' Partial-Motions shall be granted-in-part and denied-in-part.


Plaintiff has alleged several violations of federal and state law pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1885, 1986 and the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, as well as pursuant to New Jersey state law and the New Jersey Constitution. This Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's related state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.


The incidents that precipitated the filing of this Complaint occurred on April 8, 2008. On that day, Plaintiff and his girlfriend had recently concluded arguing and were sitting on the front porch of Plaintiff's home calmly talking. Defendant Foley arrived and accompanied Plaintiff to the backyard to discuss a recent domestic violence incident between Plaintiff and his girlfriend. Defendant Foley then frisked Plaintiff. After the frisk, Plaintiff turned to speak with Defendant Foley but Defendant Foley grabbed Plaintiff's right wrist and told him he was under arrest for domestic violence. At this point Defendant Foley turned Plaintiff and exerted force so hard that Plaintiff's left hand snapped off the antenna of a nearby van in the backyard. A struggle subsequently ensued. Defendant Foley put Plaintiff in a bear hug and slammed him to the ground causing a fracture of Plaintiff's left wrist. Defendant Foley also suffered an injury, a dislocated shoulder. Next, Defendant Bielski came to the backyard to assist Defendant Foley. Defendant Bielski jumped on Plaintiff's back with his knee and pushed Plaintiff's head into the ground and punched him. Defendant Pierson then cuffed Plaintiff. Defendant Dick wrote the police complaint and Plaintiff was subsequently transported to jail.

On April 7, 2010, Plaintiff commenced this suit against Defendants. After all parties answered, Defendants Foley and Dick filed a Partial-Motion to Dismiss the Complaint on May 17, 2010. Several weeks later, Defendants Bielski and Pierson filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Plaintiff opposes both Motions.

III. Standard for Motion to Dismiss*fn2

When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Under the liberal federal pleading rules, it is not necessary to plead evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts that serve as a basis for the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 562 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). However, "[a]lthough the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for relief, they do require that the pleadings give defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Baldwin County Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 149-50 n.3 (1984) (quotation and citation omitted).

A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks "'not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim.'" Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1969 n.8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions' . . . ."); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) ("Iqbal . . . provides the final nail-in-the-coffin for the 'no set of facts' standard that applied to federal complaints before Twombly.").

Following the Twombly/Iqbal standard, the Third Circuit has instructed a two-part analysis in reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated; a district court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (citing Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). Second, a district court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "'plausible claim for relief.'" Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). A complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. Id.; see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (stating that the "Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: 'stating . . . a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required element. This 'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,' but instead 'simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element").

A court need not credit either "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997). The defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented. Hedges v. U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).

IV. Discussion*fn3

A. Plaintiff's Federal and Common Law Malicious ...

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